Aimed at beginners, Lucid Dreaming, Plain and Simple shows the reader how to enter and fully experience the lucid dreaming. Among the amazing things Waggoner and McCready teach readers are how to:
- consciously decide what actions to perform
- explore dream space (or the contents of your subconscious)
- interact with dream figures
- conduct personal and scientific experiments
- be free of waking state limitations (e.g., flying, walking through walls, and discovering creative solutions to waking issues)
This book approaches lucid dreaming from a more cognitive psychology stance, and focuses more on how to lucid dream and how to use lucid dream techniques for personal growth, insight and transformation. Whether a reader is completely new to lucid dreaming or someone who has experienced that incredible moment of realizing, "This is a dream!", readers will learn valuable tips and techniques gleaned from scientific research and decades of experience to explore this unique state of awareness more deeply.
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About the Author
Robert Waggoner is President-Elect of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) and a summa cum laude graduate of Drake University with a degree in psychology. He is also the cofounder and editor of the online journal, The Lucid Dream Exchange (dreaminglucid.com), the only ongoing publication devoted specically to lucid dreaming. He is a frequent speaker at national and international dream conferences.
Caroline McCready teaches art, meditation, lucid dreaming and creativity workshops in London. As a practicing artist she has exhibited in the UK and Australia and has sold her art pieces globally. She has a BA honors degree from the University of Warwick, studied Sculpture in London and has an SQC in Psychology from Oxford Brookes University. For more information visit www.carolinemccready.com.
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Lucid Dreaming Plain and Simple
Tips and Techniques for Insight, Creativity, and Personal Growth
By Robert Waggoner, Caroline McCready
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2015 Robert Waggoner and Caroline McCready
All rights reserved.
THE SCIENCE AND PARADOX OF LUCID DREAMING
In very simple terms, lucid dreaming means realizing that you are dreaming while in the dream state. The American Psychological Association has a more official definition in its 2007 Dictionary of Psychology, defining a lucid dream as "a dream in which the sleeper is aware that he or she is dreaming and may be able to influence the progress of the dream narrative."
Both of these definitions identify the fundamental paradoxical quality of lucid dreaming: the knowledge and realization that you are consciously aware within the dream state. In fact, when you become lucidly aware within a dream, you may even find yourself announcing: "Wait, this is a dream. I am dreaming!"
My very first lucid dream occurred spontaneously around age 11 or 12 when I found myself in the book stacks of the public library and saw a Tyrannosaurus rex walking through the aisles. At first, I felt alarmed, but then I thought: "Wait a second, dinosaurs are extinct." And at that moment, I realized: "This must be a dream!" I knew I was dreaming, even as I dreamed. Even in this short example, you see the active components of most lucid dreams:
Observing or experiencing something unusual (e.g., Tyrannosaurus rex)
Critically reflecting on or analyzing the experience (e.g., dinosaurs are extinct)
Concluding that "dreaming" represents the most likely explanation (e.g., "This must be a dream!")
Essentially, lucid dreaming shows the triumphant emergence of your reflective awareness; you awaken to an understanding of your actual situation. Now consider how you often act in regular dreams. You accept things. You go along with whatever happens. You make up stories to justify your actions and the events. You lack higher levels of critical awareness and analysis. So when you see Tyrannosaurus rex, you normally feel fear and run away. In regular dreams, you accept incredible situations because of your diminished critical awareness.
Tibetan Buddhists have a wonderful metaphor for dreaming. They liken the experience of regular dreaming to that of a blind horse with a lame rider. In this metaphor, the lame rider is the person's largely unaware mind, which sits on a blind horse that dashes around with little control. If the rider (the person's mind) overcomes its lameness and becomes lucidly aware, then it can begin to direct the blind horse (the energy of the dream) and use it for personal transformation and spiritual growth.
Much of this book focuses on techniques and practices that you can use to elevate your awareness and critical reflection about your waking experience. By doing the practices given here, you can increase your chances of becoming lucidly aware in the dream state. In fact, many people report that just reading and thinking about becoming aware in the dream state has been enough to prompt them to become lucid in tonight's dreaming.
When you realize in a dream that you are dreaming, you have become lucidly aware. At that moment, you can do many amazing things:
You can consciously decide what actions to perform.
You can become free of waking-state limitations. You can fly like Superman, perform magic like Harry Potter, walk through concrete walls, breathe underwater, seek creative solutions to waking issues, and much more.
You can interact and converse with dream figures.
You can conduct personal and scientific experiments.
You can begin to explore the dream space and the contents of your unconscious.
You can work on improving waking skills for sports, business, and more.
Although these examples hint at lucid dreaming's possibilities, the greater potential of lucid dreaming for individuals, science, and society seems truly staggering and will be more fully discussed later in this chapter.
Evidence for Lucid Dreaming
The scientific evidence for lucid dreaming reveals an amazing story of insight, talent, and ingenuity. In the mid-1970s, Keith Hearne, a graduate student studying sleep and dreams at the University of Hull in England, met Alan Worsley, who claimed to have frequent lucid dreams. Hearne listened to him and was intrigued. Being a scientist, he spent time pondering how he could create an acceptable experiment to provide scientific evidence for lucid dreaming.
Later, a brilliant solution came to him. During sleep, our bodies become functionally paralyzed. But while dreaming, researchers have shown that we usually have rapid eye movement (REM). Hearne wondered whether a lucid dreamer could use his eyes to signal that he was lucidly aware and conscious while dreaming. If this were possible, it would create a major breakthrough for the sciences of dreaming, consciousness, and psychology.
So Hearne brought Worsley into the sleep lab and put polygraph pads on his eyes to record his rapid eye movements while dreaming. He then instructed Worsley to move his eyes left and right a pre-determined number of times when he became lucidly aware in a dream.
In April 1975, it happened. Sleeping in the lab, Worsley realized he was dreaming and became lucidly aware. Then he recalled the experimental design and moved his eyes left and right a pre-determined number of times to show that he was consciously aware and lucidly dreaming. Other measurements in the sleep lab confirmed that his body remained asleep, although his mind was consciously aware and signaling with the prearranged eye movements. When Hearne saw the hard evidence of the pre-arranged REM eye movements, he later remarked: "It was like getting signals from another world. Philosophically, scientifically, it was simply mind blowing."
Separately, in the United States almost three years later, Stephen LaBerge, a Stanford University doctoral student and lucid dreamer, wondered how a scientist could provide evidence for lucid dreaming. Like Hearne, he realized that a lucid dreamer could signal by moving his eyes in a pre-arranged pattern. Placing himself in the sleep lab in 1978, LaBerge became lucidly aware in a dream and signaled his awareness by moving his eyes left to right a few times, which was recorded by the laboratory equipment. He replicated this eye-signal verification technique in twenty subsequent nights in the sleep lab.
After the scientific paper he wrote describing his research was rejected by the prestigious journal Science—one reviewer adamantly refused to believe it possible to become lucidly aware in the dream state—and then by Nature—which did not review the study, but judged the topic "not of sufficient general interest"—LaBerge succeeded in getting his research published in an acceptable, peer-reviewed journal. He then became closely connected to this fascinating new area of scientific exploration and headed much of the subsequent research into it.
The Neurology of Lucid Dreaming
What does the brain look like when someone is lucid dreaming? And what may that tell us about the nature of awareness—both dream awareness and waking awareness?
In the past ten years, subjects have been studied while lucid dreaming in fMRI machines (wearing special headphones to mute the machine's noise so they can remain asleep) and separately while wearing 19-channel electroencephalogram (EEG) receptors on their scalps. Both studies provided similar evidence about brain function during lucid dreaming.
In very general terms, the researchers discovered that, when you lucid dream, the parts of your brain associated with dreaming show their usual activity; but certain parts of your brain normally associated with waking consciousness also show activity (e.g., frontal and frontolateral portions of the brain). Essentially, your brain activity confirms what lucid dreamers experience—you engage a dream scene knowing it as a dream and can consciously direct and manipulate your thought process. In essence, you have conscious awareness within a dream that you are dreaming.
The research team led by Ursula Voss that performed the 19-channel EEG recording of the lucid dream state concluded "... [L]ucid dreaming constitutes a hybrid state of consciousness with definable and measurable differences from waking and from REM sleep, particularly in frontal areas." It also commented: "Because lucidity can be self-induced, it constitutes not only an opportunity to study the brain basis of conscious states but also demonstrates how a voluntary intervention can change those states." In the team's view, lucid dreaming shows us a special neurological state between the waking and dreaming states, but with features of both states existing simultaneously.
A member of the other research team that performed the combined EEG/fMRI study, Michael Czisch at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, commented to Science Daily about that team's research results:
The general basic activity of the brain is similar in a normal dream and in a lucid dream.... In a lucid state, however, the activity in certain areas of the cerebral cortex increases markedly within seconds. The involved areas of the cerebral cortex are the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex to which, commonly, the function of self-assessment is attributed, and the frontopolar regions, which are responsible for evaluating our own thoughts and feelings. The precuneus is also especially active, a part of the brain that has long been linked with self-perception.
Using the fMRI data, this research team could focus on the specific areas within the brain that showed activity. The results clearly showed that lucid dreaming activated parts of the cerebral cortex connected with self-assessment, self- perception, and examination of thoughts and feelings.
This neurological research basically confirmed the thousand-plus-year contention of lucid dreamers: 1) Through voluntary actions, you can achieve lucid awareness in the dream state, 2) When lucid, you have the capacity for metacognition or awareness about your own thought process, 3) When lucid, you can direct your actions within that unique state of dreaming, and 4) When lucid, you can assess your actions and learn from the response.
Science has barely investigated the extraordinary potential of this state to develop skills, seek creativity, effect physical changes, and obtain psychological insights. In fairness though, the research funds devoted to lucid dreaming seem extremely small, relative to the potential for scientific contributions. Nevertheless, as the number of lucid dreamers continues to increase and experienced lucid dreamers gain even more insights, the depth of these personal experiments and conceptual explorations will likely grow, as will the reports of fascinating achievements.
How Common Is Lucid Dreaming?
The International Journal of Dream Research has published studies on lucid dreaming surveys of students in numerous countries. When college psychology students were asked whether they had ever become aware that they were dreaming while in a dream (i.e., lucid dreaming), the researchers reported these results for positive responses:
71 percent in the United States
82 percent in Germany
73 percent in the Netherlands
47 percent in Japan
The research surveys shows that about 20 percent of college-age lucid dreamers claim to have frequent lucid dreams (that is, at least one each month). Our impression is that, if you ask deeply interested lucid dreamers who routinely visit lucid dream forums about the frequency of their lucid dreaming, a majority average about one to eight lucid dreams per month, with occasional periods of inactivity. Considering that we have five or more dreams a night, or about 150 dreams each month, the percentage of dreams that are lucid seems relatively small.
Research has also shown the prevalence of lucid dreaming among younger students. One study by Michael Schredl and others, Lucid Dreaming in Children: The UK Library Study, described how researchers placed surveys on dreaming in libraries in the United Kingdom and received 3,579 responses from children ages six to eighteen years. When asked whether they had experienced a lucid dream at least once, 43.5 percent responded affirmatively.
A more in-depth 2012 study published in the Journal of Sleep Research dealt with 694 German students in primary and secondary schools between the ages of six and nineteen. Led by researcher Ursula Voss, this study investigated the hypothesis "that lucid dreaming occurs primarily in childhood and puberty." It found that "lucid dreaming is quite pronounced in young children ..." Indeed, around 51 percent of these young people reported a lucid dream.
Using a questionnaire and one-on-one interviews, Voss's research team asked the children to provide examples of dreams in which they became aware of dreaming. They received examples like the following:
Narrative 1 (boy, age 7): I dreamt I was playing soccer with my friends, and when I looked at my legs I saw that they were distorted. Then I realized it must be a dream because they did not at all look like my own legs. Then I looked up and saw that I was in a giant soccer stadium and I was able to play with my favorite soccer team (the adult team). I could run real fast, faster than in waking.
Narrative 3 (girl, age 10): Someone was haunting me. And I was with my girlfriend. The chaser stood before me and wanted to kill me. And then I realized it was only a dream. So I made the person disappear and then suddenly it wasn't dark anymore.
The researchers note that many of these students exhibited an ability to influence the course of the dream, even though "these students had no training and lucid dreaming occurred spontaneously." Often, when they became lucid, they reported using the experience to go flying or to deal with threatening situations.
If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews, ask them whether they have ever become aware of dreaming while in a dream state. You may be surprised by how many have had a lucid dream.
When research studies by Jayne Gackenbach investigated personality and gender differences in lucid dreaming, at first it appeared that women had a distinct advantage over men. When the data was examined more deeply, however, it showed that women reported more dreams overall than men—hence more lucid dreams as well. When an adjustment was made for this quantitative distinction, the gender difference largely disappeared. Nonetheless, lucid dream reports seem positively associated with strong dream recall.
Additional research by Gackenbach indicates that people with good spatial skills and field independence have some advantage in becoming lucid. The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines field independence as "a cognitive style in which the individual consistently relies more on internal referents (body sensation cues) than on external referents (environmental cues)." In lucid dreams, we often deal with unusual situations and changing space perspectives, so a reliance on our inner felt sense of direction supports us as we maneuver within dreaming.
When Robert interviews talented lucid dreamers for the quarterly magazine Lucid Dreaming Experience, he occasionally asks about their first experience with lucid dreaming. He has discovered that a small number began lucid dreaming around age five. (Most report their first lucid dream occurring in their pre-teen to teenage years.) Normally, they recall this early date because they used lucid dreaming to handle recurring childhood nightmares.
For example, a Norwegian lucid dreamer, Line Salvesen, reported feeling amazed when reading about lucid dreaming for the first time in a Norwegian magazine; she assumed that was how everyone dreamed! In her case, she recalls becoming lucidly aware as a small child in order to deal with recurring nightmares. After that, she found it easy to become lucidly aware each night in almost every dream. Now, she uses her skill to help researchers investigate lucid dreaming in the sleep lab.
Cases also exist of people learning to lucid dream at a more mature age. In another issue of Lucid Dreaming Experience, Robert interviewed a man named Tad Messenger, who experienced his first lucid dream at age fifty-two. He reports having relatively frequent lucid dreams thereafter. His skill at lucid dreaming developed after persevering through a lengthy psycho-spiritual practice. Then, he claims, "it was like a door opened," and he could often become lucid when he had the intent to do so.
German researchers Melanie Schädlich and Daniel Erlacher investigated how lucid dreamers applied their lucid dreaming skills practically. They found that the broad category of having fun drew the most attention from lucid dreamers, with 81.4 percent reporting how they flew around, danced, played games, and so on. The next most common application, at 63.8 percent, involved changing nightmares. Lucid dreamers, especially women, realized that they could use their awareness when lucid to alter a nightmare scenario in some fashion. Schädlich's research showed that problem-solving (29.9 percent), creativity (27.6 percent), and practicing skills (21.3 percent) rounded out the top five applications. Lucid dreamers have thus discovered that all points on the spectrum between outrageous fun and serious work can occur in lucid dreams.
Excerpted from Lucid Dreaming Plain and Simple by Robert Waggoner, Caroline McCready. Copyright © 2015 Robert Waggoner and Caroline McCready. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Science and Paradox of Lucid Dreaming 1
Chapter 2 Preparing to Dream Lucidly 21
Chapter 3 Basic Induction Techniques 33
Chapter 4 Stabilizing Your Lucid Dreams 53
Chapter 5 The Power of Projection 65
Chapter 6 Dream Objects and Settings 87
Chapter 7 Interacting with Complex Dream Figures 101
Chapter 8 Intent and the Power of Surrender 113
Chapter 9 Responding Effectively in Your Dreams 125
Chapter 10 Exploring Inner Space 137
Chapter 11 Emotional Healing in Lucid Dreams 149
Chapter 12 Intending Physical Health 161
Chapter 13 Meditating in Lucid Dreams 171
Chapter 14 Living Lucidly 183